When I had started to cook for the first time I didn’t even know what are the essential spices that I must have in my kitchen. I used to watch my mom cooking. She used to cook so fast that I used to think I can’t cook like her ever.
I used to see her roast some spices and blend it and add it to the curry. Even now at our home, mom prepares masalas herself from the whole spice. This is what gives the fresh flavor and life to any dish we make.
But in today’s lifestyle, everyone can’t afford so much time doing these. So we have adapted to the ready-made spices available in the market. These spices will be available in whole and grounded form separately.
In the darbar of the great king Ashoka, it is said that 9 essential people were there who were the secret behind his victories in all the battle for and Indian lady cooking is not less than a battle, proper strategy and planning is needed all the time and even now our cooking experts has these 9 essentials in their kitchen to win this war.
As we know, spices are the heart of Indian cooking. A dish without spices is just boring they seem to have no life. They can modify the dish into tasty and give a soul to ingredients. This reminds me of a saying :
Spice a dish with love and it pleases every palate
Let’s jump and discuss one by one on essential spices that every Indian must have in their kitchen and some extra spices that one can add to increase the aroma and taste.
Ground turmeric is the bright colored spice. This adds the peppery-earthy aroma and a golden color to the dish. It’s also a healing agent and has anti-inflammatory properties hidden inside it.
This spice is grown down the soil and has a special aroma to the whole plant. The leaves of the plant can also be used for wrapping to pass the aroma to the dish. This spice can be used from preparing dishes to drinks and also used as face packs.
Red Chillies are available in many types and forms. There are some which are long in shape and some with small and rounded ones. The red chilies are available in both whole and grounded ones. It has the red strong shade that adds the color and spiciness to the dish.
Cumin is a spice that has a warm, earthy flavor along with a tangy, musky scent. These whole cumin seeds can be used as a tempering(tadka) and roasted and ground cumin can be added in the cooking process. Cumin added some earthy flavor to curries, daal, etc. In addition, cumin also increases the activity of digestive enzymes which will potentially speed up digestion.
Brown Mustard [Sarso/Rai]
Mustard is made from the seeds of mustard plants which are small rounded in shape. There are three main species of mustard that are used to great extent. They are black mustard, brown Indian mustard, and white/yellow mustard. In India, commonly we use brown mustard as a spice. They are used in chutneys, curries, salads, and pickles.
The pungent adds flavor to the dish either when it is added to heated oil where they split and release their scent or when it’s been grounded to add the flavor. The mustard oil is made from pressing the mustard to extract the spicy oil from it.
Black peppers are grown on woody-stemmed or a climbing plant, which is grown for its fruit called peppercorns or simply peppers. These are harvested when they are ripped and turned to red. The harvested fruits are dried in sunlight and these are what we get as peppers in the market.
Peppers are obtained in whole as well as grounded. In cooking mostly we used the grounded ones which will give the spicy taste to the dish. These peppercorns are used in garam masalas. This is one of the essential must-have spices in every Indian kitchen.
Coriander has the upper hand as an important spice in flavoring food. The whole plant has a pleasant aroma and has a hint of citrus and earthy flavor. The coriander leaves are bushy and leaves are used for garnishing in many Indian dishes.
But coriander as a spice has the upper priority. Coriander is ground and added to the dish to add the aromatic flavor to the dish. These are often paired with cumin to get the earthy flavor to the dish.
Ginger belongs to the plant family of turmeric and cardamom where the whole plant has its own spicy aroma. It’s grown underground and has a spicy earthy flavor. The fresh ginger can be chopped or made a paste of it to add to your dish. Ginger goes well along with garlic because they blend with each other nicely. Adding ginger in your can soothe digestion related issues and upset stomach.
The dried latex is an important spice added to give the aromatic fragrance to the dish. Adding just a pinch goes a long way. Hing smoothes out the aroma of all spices and adds the pleasant mild scent which balances the dish in Indian food. Due to the pungent smell, they are usually stored in an airtight container.
Garam masala is the blend of ground spices that are used in preparing dishes. These come in different tastes because it depends on how you want it, maybe spicy, pungent, strong or mild.
You can roast the ingredients like cumin, coriander, pepper, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon and can add extra spices of your choice and blend it. The blended mixture is stored in the container to use it in your future recipes. Adding these mixtures to your curry or sambar will give your dish the special taste and aroma.
Along with these, there are some additional spices that I use often.
Cardamom is the Indian spice made from the seed-pods of various plants from the ginger family well-known for its enormous flavor. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom has a sweet, pungent flavor with a strong fragrance.
This spice is used in the preparation of tea, garam masala mixture, basmati rice to give a strong flavor to the dish. Cardamom has a strong flavor when it’s cooked with pods or even roasted and ground to blend it with a dish. They should be stored in an airtight container so that the aroma won’t be faded away on passing time.
Cloves are the one among the essential spices in the form of dried flower buds from the clove tree which are used in flavoring the dish in Indian kitchens. It is used in the preparation of stews, soups, meat preparations. Cloves are used as a flavoring agent in whole or ground form in the preparation of dishes and in the food industry in Indian cuisine.
Cassia Bark [Dalchini]
Cassia is the dried bark obtained from cassia trees. They are also known as Chinese cinnamon. It’s sweet and earthy in flavor just similar to cinnamon sticks which adds the immense aroma in the preparation of meat-based dishes. The bark is used as a spice and can be used in whole or ground form. The ground spice in Indian cooking is used in the mixture of spices to add more aroma and flavor to your dish.
The expensive and must have essential spice in every Indian kitchen for preparation of Indian desserts grown in Kashmir valley. Hundreds and thousands of stigmas are used to produce a pound of saffron. The crimson threads are collected and dried are mainly used as a coloring and seasoning agent. Adding saffron to Currys or desserts adds a fierce aroma to the dishes.
Indian Bay Leaf [Tej Patta]
Bay leaf is the aromatic pungent leaves originally from Himalayan Southern slopes. They have a milder aroma similar to cinnamon bark. Bay leaves are used as flavoring agents in soups, sauces, stews, fish, and meats. They are dried or roasted to get its powdered form.
Fenugreek seeds [Maethi Dana]
To get a slightly nutty, bitter, and sweet taste we use fenugreek seeds either in roasted and blended or as a whole. The dried and roasted seeds are light browns in color. They are used in sandwiches and salads. It is used as one among the flavoring agents in food. Usually, these seeds are fried and roasted in oil or ghee to overcome its bitterness. These get blended easily along with chili, coriander, and cumin powder.
Spices are used as a flavoring, coloring, garnishing, or preservative agent of food. A single ingredient can play multiple roles in helping a dish to reach the attic. Buying whole spice is recommended because the ground spice will lose its flavor quicker than the whole. So the whole spice can be roasted and ground as peruse. There are a lot more spices available excluding the list that we have gone through.
I hope you find these essential spices that one must-have in every Indian kitchen guide useful. If you have read my blog till this point and you have something to suggest on anything you can leave your comment below. I will be happy to receive all the comments.